- China Mobile, a state-owned telecommunications company, has put forth proposals suggesting the creation of a digital identification (ID) system for users in these virtual environments.
- The primary purpose of this proposed digital ID system is to maintain order and safety within the virtual world.
- What makes this proposal particularly noteworthy is its resemblance to China’s existing social credit system, which is still in development.
It has come to light that China is reportedly considering the implementation of a system reminiscent of its existing social credit system, but this time within the realm of the Metaverse and other online virtual worlds. According to documents viewed by POLITICO and reported on August 20, China Mobile, a state-owned telecommunications company, has put forth proposals suggesting the creation of a digital identification (ID) system for users in these virtual environments. This digital ID would be constructed based on users’ “natural characteristics” and “social characteristics.”
The primary purpose of this proposed digital ID system is to maintain order and safety within the virtual world. To achieve this, the ID would contain a wealth of personal information and identifiable traits, including details about a person’s occupation. The proposals even advocate for this data to be permanently stored and shared with relevant authorities.
An illustrative example was provided to demonstrate the potential benefits of this system. In the scenario of a problematic user causing disturbances and spreading rumors within the Metaverse, the digital ID would enable law enforcement to swiftly locate and penalize the individual responsible.
What makes this proposal particularly noteworthy is its resemblance to China’s existing social credit system, which is still in development. This national infrastructure is designed to encourage desirable behavior by assigning scores and rankings to citizens based on various criteria. Moreover, it has been employed as a means of enforcement. Notably, in 2018, reports indicated that individuals with poor social credit scores were denied the ability to purchase plane tickets about 17.5 million times, and around 5.5 million individuals faced restrictions on buying train tickets due to social credit penalties.
China vs Metaverse
This recent initiative from China Mobile was put forward on July 5 during discussions with a focus group centered around the Metaverse, organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN-affiliated agency focused on communications technology. The focus group is scheduled to convene again in October, potentially leading to a vote on these proposals.
If these proposals are passed, they could wield significant influence over telecommunication companies and technology firms. The ITU’s Metaverse focus group seeks to establish new standards for metaverse services, and the involvement of Chinese companies in the group appears to be particularly active. Notably, compared to contributions from the United States and Europe, Chinese companies are purportedly submitting a larger number of metaverse-related proposals. This effort by Chinese entities appears to be a strategic endeavor to set the standards for the metaverse should its usage become widespread.
This situation has prompted some concerns and reflections on the potential implications. A contributor to the focus group expressed apprehension about a metaverse where identity protocols are established and overseen by Chinese authorities. They urged governments to ponder whether such an immersive world, with identity control by Chinese entities, aligns with their vision of the future.
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